The Comings and Goings of Missouri's Teachers

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The Economics of Education Review has recently published an excellent study by University of Missouri economics professor Michael Podgursky (and NCTQ Advisory Board member) and others on how academic credentials influence peoples' decisions to enter and exit teaching positions in Missouri.

Consistent with previous studies, the study finds that people that score higher on the ACT are less likely to go into teaching, less likely to teach in high-poverty schools, and if they do teach, they are more likely to leave.

More surprising are the study's findings on the impact of pay on teacher retention. Georgia State University economics professor Benjamin Scafidi and others found in a 2003 study that very few teachers who leave the profession secure higher paying jobs (only about four percent of exiting females and five percent of exit males). Podgursky et al. also find that even high ACT scoring teachers do not, on the average, leave for higher paying jobs.

Pay in fact appears to have a a bigger impact on elementary teachers as a group than it does on science and math teachers. Thus, as the authors note, across the board pay raises may improve the retention of the teachers we have the most of (elementary teachers) but it will do little to help keep the teachers we have the least of (secondary math and science teachers).

Check out this study for yourself. It is well worth a careful read.